The political and military echelons launched a public preemptive war over the weekend against the State Comptroller’s Report on Operation Protective Edge – the third Gaza war – fought in the summer of 2014.
The preemptive war actually began behind the scenes several months ago. However, as is often the case with confidential police investigations, the fervor surfaced over the weekend.
Most of those involved – including the prime minister, former and current ministers, as well as senior officers who have since retired and those still in uniform – have been briefing the press, leaking information and defaming rivals either directly or in a roundabout manner. They are finding it difficult to agree with one another. They are also saddled by personal and their loathing for one another.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Moshe Ya’alon, defense minister at the time of the war, are against Education Minister and Bayit Yehudi chairman Naftali Bennett, who, rightly or not, is taking credit for the report’s findings in the vein of “I told you so.”
Operation Protective Edge
Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid is stepping lightly because he was a cabinet member at the time of the war and therefore bears some responsibility for what happened. However, he is now gaining in polls and sees himself as a candidate to replace Netanyahu, so he is critical of him.
Defense Minister and Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman, who at the time of the war called to conquer the Gaza Strip and topple Hamas, thus butting heads with Netanyahu, is now the prime minister’s ally. Construction Minister Yoav Galant (Kulanu), who was not in the government at the time, was once a candidate to be IDF chief of staff and has it out for those who thwarted him, namely Ya’alon and the man who got the job instead, Benny Gantz.
However, all have one thing in common: They want to manipulate in their favor State Comptroller Joseph Shapira’s report, which is set to be published on Tuesday at 4 p.m.
The report was compiled by Yossi Beinhorn, head of the State Comptroller’s department of security affairs. It numbers 208 pages, including the covers, a summary in Arabic and various appendices.
The public is already sick and tired of the endless chatter heard during the efforts to preemptively discredit the findings.
Furthermore, in the age of mass information (and now “alternative facts”), its attention span for failures, scandals, corruption and stupid decisions decreases every year. The shorter the public’s attention span, the shorter the shelf life of every report or journalistic exposé, rendering them less impactful.
The leaks from the report show that it will emphasize dozens of failures: insufficient discussions in the cabinet, withholding of information from ministers, the IDF’s erroneous estimate of the tunnel threat, not enough intelligence on the tunnels, ego wars between Military Intelligence and the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and their respective directors, and many more tactical failures.
The report draws significant conclusions about six people: Netanyahu, Ya’alon, Gantz, then-MI chief Aviv Kochavi, then-Shin Bet director Yoram Cohen and, to a lesser extent, then-National Security Council chairman Yossi Cohen, who today serves as head of the Mossad.
There are other casualties of the report who are subject to lesser degrees of criticism: then-head of MI’s research division, Itai Baron; and then- OC Southern Command, Sami Turgeman.
Almost every State Comptroller’s Report or investigative committee report – certainly those relating to a war in which people were killed and wounded – has met opposition from those being criticized. This was the case after the Yom Kippur War, the First Lebanon War and the Second Lebanon War. This is the way of the world.
The comptroller’s job is to find mistakes, criticize failures to follow procedure, condemn flawed decision-making processes and negligence, and, above all, to expect that lessons will be learned and the mistakes aren’t repeated.
Those being criticized entrench themselves in their positions and defend their decisions and actions. Furthermore, in Israel there is no culture of taking responsibility; if anything, there is a culture of escaping responsibility. There are very few public figures in Israel who are mensches, who admit their mistakes, take responsibility and resign.
The state comptroller was exposed to all of the material and therefore he has a comprehensive view of the events.
However, it must not be forgotten that he is seeing the events in hindsight. He deals with processes and procedure, not the quality of the decisions made.
It is also not his job to discuss the limitations that the two sides in the war are subject to, or the war’s results.
Neither Hamas nor Israel wanted the war. The battle was prolonged, not only because of the failures in how it was managed, but also because the IDF knows that Israeli society struggles to deal with casualties.
Therefore, in order to minimize them, the army must proceed cautiously, and caution prolongs the fight.
The truth is that Israel did not really have an option to end the war, as Liberman and Bennett demanded at the time.
The comptroller knows this well. He claims, and rightfully so, that the prime minister should have told the ministers the truth prior to Israel’s entry into the war. Netanyahu should have said: We have no desire to conquer Gaza and topple Hamas rule because what does toppling Hamas entail, and what happens if we succeed? We will occupy and rule over Gaza again? Above all, the result that the war has yielded thus far (knock on wood) the longest period of quiet for Israel on the Gaza front since 1968 – we have already had 30 months of quiet. Hamas is deterred and has no desire, intention or capability to start a war now.
In my humble opinion, this quiet, which is indeed fragile, will continue. Remember the “failed” Second Lebanon War and what was said about it by analysts and experts – and here we are, nearing 11 years of quiet in the North. Today, it can be concluded that the war was a great success for Israel.
It is true that Hamas is rearming and preparing for the next round. However, so is Israel.
Thus significant positive developments came out of Operation Protective Edge despite its failures.